Seizures versus Demons: a response to “Concerned”

My wife (Stephanie S. Sawyer) has written much about  her experiences with epilepsy, including her first of two books, “Facing Me”.She has been a persistant and effective advocate for those afflicted with this disorder, and nationally recognized for “Making a Difference” in this cause.

She recently posted an article about one of her experiences with epilepsy in the church. That article is on SQUIDOO.COM, and is titled “Seizures versus Demon Possession: The Church’s Mistake”

She received this response from “Concerned”

Concerned wrote

if you will not accept or admit that you have a demon (seizure) you will not be delivered from these attacks.

My response was too lengthy for the format there, so I am posting it here, with a link from her site.

The following is my full response:

==============

Well, my better judgment is usually to “not feed the trolls”, and “Concerned” has those trollish earmarks: hiding behind anonymity, and short, unreasoned attack with no coherent support given. However, this comment pulls me to respond for several reasons:

 The first is charitable, I am going to do as my mother would have it, and assume that “concerned” is not a troll, but simply ignorant about both Christianity, and about epilepsy.

A second reason is that as Ms. Sawyer’s husband, I am a bit un-accepting of those who assert that my wife is demon-possessed.  You may think that is a bit hyper-sensitive of me, but there it is.

The third reason for injecting myself now is that, while I am generally tolerant of folks saying things that they haven’t thought through, and thus looking pretty foolish (after all, where would I be if folks treated me strictly on that score!), “Concerned” writes with the seeming assurance of “thus sayeth the Lord” He or she seems to give the impression that this particular destructive foolishness is direct from God, or is at least sanctioned by His word, or is a natural conclusion of Christian thought. A man may make himself look a fool without raising my ire, or even my care; but I will not abide him making my Lord out to be an idiot.

My final and most compelling reason to respond is that “Concerned” so perfectly illustrates the issue I had with the Rev. R.’s sermon, which Stephanie referenced. That concern is that in his remarks, which I believe he meant innocently enough, there was unintentional fuel for those such as “Concerned,” who are concerned enough to tell other people that they had a demon, but yet not concerned enough to understand them, or indeed, not concerned enough to read their Bible.

I must ask your indulgence; because I wish to address these issues here. I will not organize my thoughts be the number, but just jumbled together.

First, since “Concerned”  presents as a supposed Christian, the bulk of my comments will be as between those of the same house; I will engage from a perspective of Christian thought. If anyone is bothered of confused by my tone or substance, I will be happy to answer or engage on any of these points, either here, or on my own blog, at www.rericsawyer.wordpress.com.

 

Concerned wrote

if you will not accept or admit that you have a demon (seizure) you will not be delivered from these attacks

If taken seriously, remarks like this are extremely destructive. To be told that one is of the devil, and is acting under the power of the evil one is nearly the most horrific thing one can hear, assuming that one believes that such things are possible. I do. No one can rightly gauge the devastating rejection in those words unless they have heard them, while in a vulnerable emotional state, from someone they should be able to trust. I would not have believed that people could say that to a person with epilepsy had I not been present when my wife was told it, if I had not seen the pain as she related other times, once from a pastor (not the Rev. R), once from “well-meaning friends” and from a supposed “prayer ministry” It’s enough to make any sane person, anyone of even remotely sound emotional health run from such “ministers” or indeed, from Christianity at all, and that is the tragedy. By failing to read, by failing to understand what God has given us, we put lies in His mouth; By saying such things, we put blasphemies into the mouth of God, and claim them as His own. We destroy the saints for whom He died. As Jesus said about those who set such stumbling blocks, it would be better for them if a millstone were tied around their neck, and they were thrown into the sea. That seems a little harsh, even to me, but then, I’m not the one who said it.

 “Concerned” may answer that although the diagnosis sound cruel, the truth is the essential thing if one wants relief. Well then, is it true? After all, I’ve already admitted to the reality of demonic activity. If that is the cause of these seizures, there is nothing to be gained by denying it, even though it seems more affirming. There are three obvious Scriptural issues. I won’t cite chapter and verse, they are all obvious, and it may do some good for those concerned enough to look them up.

 The first is found in St. Paul’s own struggle. He himself (ok, 2nd Corinthians) was “buffeted by a messenger from Satan”, a “thorn in the flesh”.  Even though this thorn was specifically called a messenger from Satan, it was never the less from God, and it was to God that Paul directed his request for relief. That request was denied. God’s purpose for Paul was enhanced by the existence of this thorn, and in Paul learning to bear it. Whatever it was, ultimately it was from God; and as Paul later wrote in Romans, “all things work together for good…”

 Aside from the obvious issue that a believer, indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God cannot be possessed  by a demon (for how can a demon posses the temple of the Holy Spirit?), we have the idea that all things ultimately come from God, or are allowed by Him, and thus all things serve Him, either as His partners, or as His tools. Remember the story in the gospel of the “Man born blind” The disciples were concerned that Jesus understand how very wise and perceptive they were; and so they said “was it this man’s sin, or his parent’s sin” that resulted in his blindness? After all, every bad thing must have a root in evil, and since the sufferer is the one who gathers that evil fruit, then evil must lie with him, or at the least,  lie in him from his evil parents. “Concerned” also has perceived that the evil of epilepsy must, for the sake of justice, arise from evil. With charity, he does not attribute that evil to my wife directly, but to an evil presence controlling her. It must be so. He is very perceptive and concerned. After all, Jesus did respond to their wise and concerned question. What did Jesus say about what caused this man’s blindness? He said “neither.”

 This man’s condition was for the glory of God.

St. Paul’s thorn was for the glory of God.

Mrs. Sawyer’s epilepsy is for the glory of God; and I have seen it work so.

In weakness, I have seen strength. From pain, I have seen sensitivity and love for the afflicted grow (so much more helpful is love and sensitivity than simple concern!),

 All evil of course has a root in our common fall, and thus has something of the serpent in it. But the heart of the Gospel is not “casting out,” it is “redeeming” and thus, when any evil befall us, even if it is by a “messenger of Satan”, God is the one who rips the weapon from the hand of His enemy, and turns it round for His victory, He is the true master. The chief example being our enemy’s seeming triumph, for a moment only, at Calvary, when God turned betrayal, defeat and death into the centerpiece of His eternal plan, and the means of our redemption.

 Remember also, and with care, Job. Job was tormented, not for his unrighteousness, but for his righteousness. Job’s friends had all the easy answers, ‘it MUST be because of your sin!’ Job was confused. He did not understand, and he accused God. But in the end, God said that only Job had spoken rightly, and that his friends were false. His friends were “concerned” but all they had to offer were empty and easy platitudes that made the situation worse.

 Concerned presents himself as light into a dark place. I think it is a masquerade, and that he brings not light, but deeper darkness. His masquerading as a angel of light has been done before, and always to the purpose of bringing despair, and accusation. He calls the temple of the Holy Spirit the abode of demons. Such blasphemy has been heard before, and the warning of Jesus was very stern: “All manor of sin will be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven…” from Matthew 12.

 Finally, at the beginning I listed the most compelling reason for this long invective was that it so well illustrated the complaint against the sermon of the Rev. R, which prompted the original post.  It is my belief, having heard the sermon, and having exchanged somewhat heated letters with Rev. R, and speaking with him about this matter on two occasions to a conclusion that affirmed our common bond in Christ, that he does NOT share the views of “concerned” and that he would, in fact, find them reprehensible.  I think he meant well but had not encountered people like “concerned” at least in a way that burned into his consciousness. I think he is a good man, and a good priest,  but out of his depth on this issue. My complaint to him is that he brought up the similarity between the symptoms described in the healing portrayed in the Gospel for that day, and the sometimes appearance of epilepsy. He did this without speaking to the devastatingly harmful, and blasphemously wrong opinions of people like “Concerned”;

And by that failure, unintentionally lent them support from the pulpit. He was not wrong, but he is (at least in my opinion, which I have shared with him) responsible for the false use which may be made of things which he says, and should guard his words, or explain them so as to deny support for this evil.

“Concerned” demonstrates that it still exists.

 

R. Eric Sawyer

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2 Comments

Filed under ALL, Blogroll, Christianity, Epilepsy, Marriage

2 responses to “Seizures versus Demons: a response to “Concerned”

  1. Bruce Baker

    As the wife of another woman with epilepsy I can feel for your situation.

    The whole problem is inscrutable. I have sympathy for the idea that epilepsy is a syndrome and not entirely somatic.

    I think most problems that plague humankind are like that.

    But yep, “Don’t feed the trolls” is a good response. There are still people who post stuff into the ether just to get a response. It makes them feel significant, important.

    Certainly the idea that if you come for healing prayer and nothing happens it is your fault. Sometimes we do ask people when praying for them if there might be something blocking their healing. Yet God is greater than that. So he is sovereign over blocking effects of our own sin.

    On this side of heaven we will never understand why some things are healed and other things are not.

    So when people say things like that I try not to feel offended. No one really knows and people with less faith try to resolve these tough issues. But they are unresolvable.

    • Bruce, I quite agree that the answers are often not to be found, and have come to peace with that. As with Job, (who found himself answered, but not his questions) we can know the One who is the answer, but not always the smaller pieces. Quite possibly (in part) because those smaller pieces of truth make no sense without God’s knowledge of the big picture, just as full comprehension of one piece of a jigsaw puzzle will still leave us baffled, unless we also understand the whole thing; and that is, at present, beyond our comprehension even if told. My trust is that at the end of all things of this world, we will be blissfully happy that He has done exactly what He has done; “He doeth all things well”.
      The only reason I responded at all is in the context of a disagreement concerning a sermon heard, and an issue taken with it. I think that sermon has probably been well enough documented by S on her site, but I believe the Rev. R meant no harm. He was simply careless in his phrasing to the extent of seeming to offer pastoral and theological support to folks like “concerned.” That “seeming” is something I think Fr D would disavow, as I have spoken both to him and L at length. I think Fr. D underestimates the pervasiveness –within the church- even good ones of folks like concerned.
      I replied to “concerned” simply because I am no longer willing to let them have the floor, and have their opinion supported by an acclamation via silence. I will no longer allow those afflicted with this disorder to be so demeaned in my presence without speaking up. And one can hope, I will carry that through, not just to epilepsy patients, but to others.
      I realize that I am powerless to affect anything for “concerned” Only our Lord can do that. But our calling is to not let our silence cry “peace, peace” when our brothers and sisters are torn down, and particularly when the rending is done in the name of that same Lord. No seeming agreement, through a no-static desiring silence.

      Blessings!
      -R. Eric Sawyer

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